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A manuscript (Latin manu scriptus written by hand), strictly speaking, is any written document that is put down by hand, in contrast to being printed or reproduced some other way.

Manuscripts in history

Before the invention of the printing press, all written documents had to be both produced and reproduced by hand. Historically, manuscripts were produced in form of scrolls or books (codex in Latin). Manuscripts were produced on vellum and other parchments, on papyrus, and on paper.

In the West from the classical period through the early centuries of the Christian era, manuscripts were written without spaces between the words (scriptio continua), which makes them especially hard for the untrained to read. Extant copies of these early manuscripts, usually written in Greek or Latin and usually dating from the 300s to 700s, C.E, are classified according to their use of either all upper case or all lower case letters. Manuscripts using all upper case letters are called uncials, those using all lower case are called cursives.

Manuscripts today

According to Library and Information Science, a manuscript is any hand-written item in the collections of a library or an archive; for example, a library's collection of the letters or a diary that some historical personage wrote.

In other contexts, however, the use of the term "manuscript" no longer necessarily means something that is hand-written.

In book and magazine publishing, a manuscript is an original copy of a work written by an author. In film and theatre, a manuscript, or script for short, is an author's or dramatist's text, used by a theater company or film crew during the production of the work's performance or filming.

In insurance, a manuscript policy is one that is negotiated between the insurer and the policyholder, as opposed to an off-the-shelf form supplied by the insurer.

The word manuscript is often abbreviated to MS., plural MSS.

See also